tv PBS News Hour PBS December 18, 2013 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: the federal reserve scales back, deciding today that it will start putting the brakes on its stimulus program. good evening, i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. also ahead this wednesday, a presidential task force calls for placing limited controls on n.s.a. surveillance at home and abroad. >> woodruff: plus, an update from tacloban, where typhoon damage can still be seen in all directions and a massive aid effort keeps churning away. >> in this temporary warehouse, there are some 200 volunteers from the community preparing care packages for an estimated 2.5 million to three million mouths that need to be fed every
single day. >> woodruff: those are just some of the stories we're covering on tonight's "pbs newshour." >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> my customers can shop around; see who does good work and compare costs. it can also work that way with healthcare. with united healthcare, i get information on quality ratings of doctors, treatment options and estimates for how much i'll pay. that helps me and my guys make informed decisions. i don't like guesses with my business and definitely not with our health. that's health in numbers. united healthcare. >> supported by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information at macfound.org
>> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: the federal reserve is ready to begin winding down its economic stimulus. chairman ben bernanke announced today the central bank will start reducing the bond-buying program next month. he said the economy has strengthened enough to make it possible. we'll hear some of what bernanke said, and dig into what it means, right after the news summary. the fed's finding of economic progress sent wall street soaring. the dow jones industrial average gained 292 points to close near 16,168-- a new record. the nasdaq rose 46 points to close at 4,070. the senate gave final approval
today to a two-year budget agreement, 64 to 36. it erases $63 billion in automatic, spending cuts, and replaces them with targeted cuts and additional revenues. nine republicans joined 55 democrats and independents in voting "aye", after supporters and opponents jousted over the measure. >> i think one of the problems we have around here often is that we don't know how to declare victory. we don't celebrate our successes. i'm not prepared to declare victory in the fight for fiscal responsibility, but i am prepared to declare progress. >> we have before us a bill today that is a purported compromise. but i want to describe who it's a compromise for. it's a compromise for the politicians. it's not a compromise for the american people. because what it really does is increase spending and increase taxes. >> ifill: the budget bill now goes to president obama for his
signature. an outside review board has presented a raft of recommendations to the president on curbing the government's surveillance programs. the proposals today target the national security agency's sweeping collection of phone and internet data, here and abroad. we'll get the details later in the program. the prime minister of ukraine insisted today that a russian-financed bailout will ensure his country's economic stability. yesterday, russian president vladimir putin pledged to buy $15 billion worth of ukrainian bonds and slash the price of russian gas. in kiev overnight and today, anti-russian demonstrators again accused the ukrainian government of selling out. they've been camped out in independence square for weeks. ethnic fighting is threatening to tear apart the world's newest country-- south sudan. government officials in the african nation said today at least 500 people have been killed since sunday
this report is narrated by lindsey hilsum of "independent television news." >> reporter: the foreigners are fleeing. aid workers and diplomats gathered at juba airport this morning trying to get on flights to neighboring countries. few south sudanese have that option. the u.n. says up to 20,000 people have sought protection in their two compounds in juba where they hope there'll be safe but although fighting eased today, just running for shelter has at times been deadly. >> ( translated ): most >> reporter: government forces appear to have retained control after fighting broke out between two factions of the presidential guard on sunday. the government calls this was a coup attempt but it seems to be more a political and ethnic power struggle. president salva kiir, an ethnic dinka, appeared on tv on sunday and again today, offering to talk to his enemies, specifically the former vice president, riek machar, whom he
sacked in july. machar, an ethnic nuer, denies that he tried to overthrow his former boss. he has reportedly returned to his home area, north of juba. today, the u.n. secretary general spoke to the president. >> i also called on him the need to dialogue with the political opposition. i welcome the reports from this morning that president salva kiir is willing to enter into such talks. >> reporter: on the streets of juba and now in other towns, south sudanese fear what will come next. already some nuer say they're being targeted by dinka soldiers loyal to the government. in 2011, south sudan celebrated independence from the north after decades of war. citizens wept in joy but they could equally have shed tears of rage. their leaders are dragging them
back into conflict, condemning them to endless poverty and strife. >> ifill: in egypt, prosecutors brought new charges against ousted president mohammed morsi today. he's accused of plotting with hamas in gaza and hezbollah in lebanon -- to wage a campaign of violence after he was overthrown. morsi is already on trial for allegedly inciting the murders of protesters last december. the u.n. and european union aid agencies are calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in syria. they said today they need to deliver critical supplies to people facing another harsh winter. meanwhile, a government assault on the besieged city of aleppo continued with a fourth day of air strikes. activists say more than 100 people have been killed in that time. a main figure in the "great train robbery" -- 50 years ago - - died today in britain. ronnie biggs was part of a gang that held up the glasgow-to- london mail train in 1963. they got away with more than
$50 million in today's currency. biggs was caught, but escaped and spent 35 years at large. he returned to england in 2001 and won his release from prison in 2009. ronnie biggs was 84 years old. a georgia woman will get half of last night's huge prize of $648 million in the mega millions lottery. officials identified the woman today as ira curry of stone mountain. she bought her ticket at a tiny newsstand in buckhead. the other winning ticket was sold at a gift shop in sajo, california. ticket holders have 180 days to claim the prize. still to come on the "newshour": the fed pulls back from its stimulus; new changes for a major government spy agency; the slow pace of recovery in the typhoon-stricken philippines and
the white house press corps pushes for more access to the news they cover. plus, looking ahead to next year's midterm elections. and paul solman ventures into virtual reality. >> woodruff: the federal reserve has been warning for months it would shift and reduce the size of its role in spurring the economy. but right up to this afternoon's announcement, many were still wondering when the fed would dial back and how it would do so. ben bernanke came to his last scheduled news conference as fed chairman, as the central bank announced it will start scaling back its long-running stimulus program. >> today's policy action reflects the committee's assessment that the economy continues to make progress, but it also has much farther to travel until conditions can be judged normal. our modest reduction in the pace of asset purchases reflect the committees belief that progress towards its economic objectives will be sustained. >> woodruff: the fed has been buying $85 billion in treasury bonds every month to hold down
interest rates and boost economic growth. starting next month, that amount will be reduced by $10 billion a month. at the same time, a benchmark short-term interest rate will stay near zero. the fed says that policy will hold well past the point when the unemployment rate falls below 6.5%. it's now at 7%. >> the job market has continued to improve, with the unemployment rate having declined further. at the same time, the recovery clearly rings far from complete with unemployment still elevated and with both underemployment and long term unemployment still major concerns. >> woodruff: for bernanke, the announcement is a climax to an eight-year tenure that's been marked by big moments in u.s. financial history. he took over as fed chair from alan greenspan in 2006. two years later, the housing bubble burst and foreclosures exploded. mortgage-backed securities collapsed, taking down some big banks and sending shock waves through the stock market. bernanke's fed responded with masi
if we are making progress in terms of inflation and continue job gains and i imagine we'll continue to do probably at each meeting a measured reduction. if the economy slows for some reason or we are disappointed by the outcomes we could skip a meeting or two. on the other side if things really pick up we could go a little bit faster. >> woodruff: bernanke's term ends on january 31. the senate could confirm his successor-- janet yellen-- later this week. we examine today's moves and the larger impact of the fed's stimulus program with three people who watch this all closely. adam posen worked on the monetary policy committee from 2009 through 2012 for the central bank of england. he is now the president of the peterson institute for international economics. john taylor is a former undersecretary of the treasury during the george w. bush administration. he is a professor of economics at stanford university. and david wessel is an economics
editor at the "wall street journal" and the author of "in fed we trust." welcome to you all three. david wessel to you first, what would you add to the explanation of what the fed did today exactly? >> well, i think the fed is beginning the end of what has been an extraordinary period of monetary policy when ben bernanke became chairman, they had a portfolio of $800 billion. today it's $4 trillion,s that-- 4 trillion, that is just unprecedented but he made clear they dr. going to keep interests rate very low for a long time. and that seems to be what the market is focused on. because the stock market was just jumping for joy at this announcement, not fearing that the dreaded tapering. >> woodruff: and david, why did they do it now? >> well, mr. bernanke said that they did it now because the economy had reached the point where they thought it was time to start turning the dials. the labor market had improved substantially.
he insisted it had nothing to do with the fact that he's leaving office in january. but it's very hard for me to believe it wasn't a factor in their mind it would be good to get this going before he handed the gaffe told janet yellin, his likely successor. >> woodruff: is this the right move? >> it's a mild mistake. the cart is before the horse in what david just said it wasn't an extraordinary period in monetary policy, it was an extraordinary period in the economy. and the moan tear policy tried to react to that. 's coming to the end of that extraordinary period. so we're shifting a bit. probably the fed is tapering a bit too soon. because there's no inflation in sight and the unemployment is still high. it's not a huge deal one way the the other. >> woodruff: you think they should have kept their foot on the pedal. >> i think they should have. i think there was very little risk and it would be possible to dial it back later. but as you and david acknowledged, there wasn't the kind of ripples through the market we saw in may when the fed first talked about tapering. i think it's not just
they're used to, but the news has been generally good about the u.s. economy. >> woodruff: john taylor, what how do you read this, is it the right move in your mind? >> i think is i think the quaint tative easing has not been very effective. it's-- interest rates are higher now than they were when quantitative easing 3 began. the purpose was to lower interest rates. so i think it's a good move to begin to get off of this. and hopefully the economy will actually be working a little better now. i don't think it's helped the economy. your comment about the fed's actions during the panic in september, october 2008 are well takenment but after that i think the interventions they've had had not really helped the economy, unfortunately. it's been a low recovery by any measure. and unemployment has only come downgrade allly. and would be even much slower if so many people had to the dropped out of the labor force. >> woodruff: adam posen, how do you respond to those comments? >> i think john is missing
the point. we've seen in other countries like greece, like spain, where they didn't ease monetary policy subject to the same shock and things got much worse. when we say that the quantitative easing, i believe quantitative easing made a huge difference. we had fiscal tightening at the state and local government level. and then at the federal level outside of 2009. we had european crisis, we had household saving extra amounts. so we only recovered in large part because the fed did this we got ourselves back towards normal because of qe, not despite it. >> woodruff: john taylor? >> no, i think about the purpose of the quantitative easing as stated was to lower long-term interest rates and, if again, look at q e3, it began just in december of last year, september of last year. and rates are higher now than they were then. so how you can say it helped. low-interest rates have not been the result. i would say again the distinguish between these actions taken in september, october 2008.
and everything else since then. those actions are were classic central banking. they were good. ben bernanke did a good job at that point. but since then i just think there's not evidence. and i think the market is going to do better basically when the fed gets off of these extraordinary unprecedented policies. david's right, there's nothing like this been done before in federal reserve history. and when these kinds of actions have to the been taken, when they've been avoid, we've had a much better recovery. this is the worst recovery. >> woodruff: adam pos en. >> it is disingenuous of john. because the idea that the economy is going to get better proves the qe stopped working is backwards. the reason they are easing up on qe is because the economy is improving. playing that game doesn't make any sense. more importantly, it's not reasonable to focus-- focus on the-- rather than the goals. what matters is the state of the economy, not what tools they use. >> woodruff: john taylor you want to come become and then i will go to david wessel. >> there is absolutely
nothing disingenuous. look at the data, look at american history. you can see what works and what doesn't. this policy has not worked. i actually think that's why a lot of people want to get off of it. it's not some of that the economy looks better. it's that this is an opportunity to get back to a more normal policy like we had in the 80s and 90s which worked very well. a lot of people had been skeptical about the qe. it's not just me, it's what we see when we look at the data. >> the market buying u.s. bonds and the economy is responding and look at the housing market and labor data that benn bernanke cited. you're just ignoring the fed. >> woodruff: david, give then debate that is still raging out there about what the fed did, any more light you can shed on how they came to this decision? >> well, i think that there was some data at the fed among some people about whether it was really doing any good. i think in response to john taylor they say the question isn't are rates lower now than they were when they began q e3. the question is what would
rates have been had the fed not had done this. but there are people on the fed who thought this policy had outlived its usefulness. and it was causing more concern inside the fed which is why they decided to pull back. but at the same time, to emphasize, and i think it's really important, that the short-term interest rates, their traditional tool will remain low for a very long time. probably until 2015 if not 2016. and that's a pretty big deal. and it may give the economy some support as they begin to get to more normal situation. >> woodruff: we know that benn bernanke is going to be around a little more than another month. so it's not the end of his term but we're nearing the end. and this is a moment when we can look, i think just briefly adam posen, at his record. what has he accomplished. has he accomplished what he set out to accomplish? >> i think chairman bernanke did an incredible job. there were a couple of errors. i think the mishandling of the taper announcement last
may. certainly his role in the excessive deregulation, loose up supervision in the early 2,000 but everything else was great. they reacted to the panic in 2008/2009. they got international agreement on loosening policy. he increased the transparency of the fed. he creatively came up with new methods when they couldn't cut interest rates below 0. and he has spobly hoo tucked to the american people, i think he has done great. >> woodruff: john taylor, how would you size up ben bernanke at this point? >> i think the actions taken during the panic in september, october 2008 were good. classic central banking, lender of last resort providing liquidity am but if you look before and after that, i think you have to ask questions. overo after person bernanke joined the federal reserve board they held interest rates quite low for a long time. i think that added to the housing boom, to the search for yield and the risk-taking. and then when the bus came as a result of this boom, the action was quite slow. they thought it was liquidity. they pumped liquidity in and
didn't address the problem. the bailouts began with bear stearns. but then there was uncertainty about leeman caused a lot of problems in the markets. then you go beyond the panic itself in to 2009, 10 and to the present and i think these very unprecedented policies were not what the economy needed. the fed's growth rates were forecast much higher than what actually happened with the policies. you can-- we can debate this for a long time but i think the record in terms of unemployment, business cycle, stability is not so good during this particular term. >> woodruff: david wessel, i will let you wrap this up, describing how you think bernanke has changed the fed. >> right, i think he's changed the fed fundamentally. we were used to having very autocratic fed chairman, paul volcker, alan greenspan. he brought much openness, democracy to the fed tchlted will be a problem for the successor janet yellin.
an even when we get back to the bond buying return to normal from 0, i think the fed will be a more open place. 20 years ago the fed didn't even announce when it made an interest rate decision. today the federal rezfb chairman spent 67 minutes explaining what they did on live tv. that's a change that will not ever be put back into the bottle. >> woodruff: we are going to leave it there. we have a little more time to look at his tenure. we appreciate all three of you being with us. david wessel, john taylor, adam posen. >> ifill: now, striking the balance between liberty and security. an independent committee appointed by the president called today for new rules to government surveillance. jeffrey brown has the story. >> brown: the 300-page report recommends scores of changes in how the national security agency gathers intelligence. it urges the massive amount of phone record data collected by
the agency be stored by telephone companies themselves or a third party. it also proposes requiring a court to approve individual searches of phone and internet records. at the white house, press secretary jay carney said president obama plans no public comment on the findings. >> in january, when the overall internal review is completed, the president will make remarks about the work that he has undertaken and the outcomes of his review. >> brown: the outside assessment was ordered after former n.s.a. contractor edward snowden leaked secret details about the agency's efforts last summer. intelligence officials maintain their data collection operation has thwarted a number of terror attacks. but opponents argue it goes too far. carney insisted the president's top priority is the safety and security of the american people. >> he does believe that we can take steps to refine our
practices and make sure that we are collecting intelligence, gathering intelligence in a way that serves our security needs in a focused way, and not just because we can because we have the capacity to do so. >> brown: the full report was originally expected to be released in january. but carney said the administration decided to release it early because initial reports were inaccurate. for more on what the review panel is recommending we turn to michael leiter, the first director of the "national counterterrorism center" under president george w. bush and president obama. he is now with a private technology firm. and kate martin, the director of the center for national security studies, a civil liberties advocacy group. first i would like to just get an overview of how you read the panel. let's start with you, kate martin. how strong is this? >> it's very strong.
it's recommend an end to the bulk collection program tore telephone records. it questions the-- all of the various programs for bulk collection. it has some specific recommendations for changing to other authorities. and it has a lot of recommendations for increasing transparency on this kind of national security intelligence gathering. >> brown: michael leiter, how do you read it. >> i agree with some of what kate say t is relatively strong. it actually doesn't recommend the termination of any of these programsment it recommends changing how they are done an high lates the-- highlights the prorns of transparency an oversight. so i think it is a modification, and not a revolution. >> brown: well specifically one of the big ones is to take the data and keep it with the phone companies or a third party, as opposed to the government. what would that do? >> correct so, this is talking about telephone
metadata, the length of calls, who made the calls, i should say the numbers that made the calls. right now the nsa, the national security agency holds all of that data and analyzes it on its own. it recommends new legislation so the phone companies are an outside, and the nsa would have to get judicial approval to actually do searches against it. i think that's quite good in technology allows that to occur in the future. it insurances that there is less of a privacy invasion because the government wouldn't hold the data. but it still provides the nsa with the flexibility it needs to do the sorts of searches to find national security threats. >> you would agree that that is a good move? >> i would great-- agree it is a good move. i would disagree of how major of a move it. at the moment what the law provides is that the government gos and has made a database with five years of metadata on every call by every american. this recommendation would stop that. the government would no
longer have a database like that. and instead when they had a specific telephone number that they believed was reasonably connected to a terrorist, they would go to a judge, get permission to then go to the telephone companies and ask for information about that telephone number. and the report is very detailed about the reasons why a bulk database of information on americans is a bad idea. and not necessary for national security. and quite different were allowing the government to go to the phone companies. >> brown: do you see, michael leiter, thins here, specific things or in the totality that would harm the go-- that go too far on the security side? >> i don't really see any individual recommendations here that are problematic. what does concern me is that taken in totality, if these things are applied with the sort of bureaucracy that can
sometime os kur in the government, it could slow things down significantly. >> brown: such as, give us an example. >> well, there is much more responsible for fisa court judges,s this's not all bad. there is a larger role for the president's civil liberties oversight board. there is more of a role for the fisa court reviewing what the fbi does. so in some, all of these things i think do pose a risk of slowing down the broader system and making intelligence officers much more risk averse. but i think the devil will be in the details. this is really the first salvo. we'll have to wait and see what the president says and ultimately what congress does on the legislative front. >> brown: what do you think, a lot of these things he's talking about go to the transparency question. >> yeah. >> brown: an account ability and oversight. >> yes. >> brown: so you put them all together and the question is it too much, does it slow down, does it make security less effect sniff. >> well, i think the answer to that is that two members of this hand picked panel by the president, of course, were former extremely senior
or high level counterterrorism officials. one of the things they say in their report is that they looked at these programs and they didn't find the programs to be necessary for national security. so the question about whether or not it slows it down, you know, they're saying we've got to readjust the programs. one of the things that is obscured with all due respect, i think, is we're not talking about in the main here, intel against gathering in a war zone, in iraq or afghanistan. we're talking about the government gathering information on its own citizens. and so yes, you want it slowed down. and in fact, one of the important insights in the report is that security is both a matter of national security and privacy. and the fact that that conclusion was reached by former counterterrorism officials, i hope the president takes that into
account. >> brown: you want to respond to that? >> well, i mean i think-- i hope it is readily parent that privacy and civil liberties are a national securities-- as well, there is no doubt about that. i commend the panel for talking about the ways in which transparency and oversight can be improved. i actual lew just think that kate misreads some of this. first of all, many of the recommendations are to the about u.s. persons. so there is much in here which is about other programs which the review group specifically says are quite helpful to include some of the e-mail collection issues. and what i would stress again is this group does not actually recommend the termination of these programs. it recommends a modification for greater oversight, greater transparency, as a general matter i think that's an outstanding thing. >> could i just -- >> okay, very briefly. >> quote, we recommend that this program, the telephone mehtadata program should be terminated as soon as reasonably practicable. that is something the president can do on his own.
>> very quickly what kate doesn't say is that she then-- they then recommend legislation to allow the telephone companies to do this so nsa can search that same data. >> no, it is kler that legislation is not necessary. >> brown: all right, we will end but i want to say there is a lot more there and knees are recommendations. there going to be debate ford some time. we'll come back to it. michael leiter, and kate martin, thank you both very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> ifill: secretary of state john kerry announced today the united states will provide $25 million in additional aid to help the philippines recover from the devastating typhoon that struck that country last month. kerry visited hard-hit tacloban, and also spoke of the need to act to prevent global warming and extreme weather. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro is in the philippines and filed this report on the recovery effort.
>> reporter: tacloban, the typhoon zones main city, remains under a thick blanket of debris, rubble and downed trees. many of the 1,800-plus people still listed as missing were trapped underneath. the tally of bodies still being recovered is in the dozens each week. by now decomposed well beyond recognition, they are added to the confirmed death toll of more than 6,000. five weeks after hynan or yolanda, as the philippines named the epic typhoon, relief workers say there has been progress, even though it's hard to see at first glance. elizabeth tromans is with catholic relief services >> i can see a lot more roofs on buildings, i can see a lot more partially damaged walls that have been patched up with tarp or with salvaged iron sheeting that used to be on top of roofs, you can hear the chain saws buzzing in the background
there's a lot of lumber being cut up so, it's open up new areas. it's every day. >> reporter: families like the briones-- ronald, his wife magnolia, her mother and two teenage sons-- have returned to the spot where once stood their modest two-story home. all but a twisted heap of electronic plastic and rebar was washed out to sea. washed ashore when they returned, one almost next door to them, were several cargo ships containing loads of cement. but the briones family's most basic needs, so desperately lacking in the early days, are now being met. >> ( translated ): we get rice, fish, some vegetables, noodles, sardines. >> reporter: the food comes not from a market but from what seems like a typhoon of food aid. 24 hours a day, seven days a week in this temporary
warehouse, some 200 volunteers from the community prepare care packages for the 2.5 million to three million mouths that need to be fed, every single day. the volunteers are supervised by staff from the philippine department of social welfare. soldiers help sort and pack other consignments in a nearby building. if there's a go to person here, it's oliver bartolo. he's not with any aid agency or the government but on loan, as its contribution to the relief effort from u.p.s., united parcel service. bartolo arrived a week after the disaster, tasked to bring coherence to chaos. >> most of the incoming relief goods, they were just unloaded in the warehouse and just stacked without any dates in it, no labeling, so it would be hard for us to track what has come in
first that needs to comes out first also. you have a real hard time knowing what you have? right, that's right. it's hard to coordinate. >> reporter: bartolo has begun to do that now with a ten member team, including people from other freight companies. they've brought equipment, trucks and forklifts and, as filipinos, critical expertise. >> we've now got it seems like a surplus of empty containers at the port. >> reporter: on this day an official with the u.n.'s world food program needed empty freight containers cleared away at tacloban's small port. new shipments of the critical staple rice were due in soon and bartolo promised to speak to the official in charge. >> i can speak to her and probably we can find a place where you can put all those things. >> reporter: with so little time and space and so much need, the food program's tommy thompson says bartolo's team has
shortened delivery times by days. >> what they really provide is local expertise, because we're really in a race against time. they can alert us to way systems work in the country. so we now know how to import, how things should be labeled so we don't have customs delays. >> reporter: back at the warehouses, bartolo's big challenge is to ship things out without delay. he worries a lot of it is in danger of rotting in the heat and humidity. >> especially the rice. in the afternoon, there's always a downpour and were afraid that some of the roofing of the warehouse are not yet repaired so there are leaks. >> reporter: for now, relief officials say at least the most basic food need is being met. the on going challenge will be to keep replenishments moving in and out swiftly. the next priority for many in the recovery effort is sanitation-- everything from latrines to toiletry essentials. >> this is meant for a family of
five for a month. >> reporter: but catholic relief services elizabeth troman's says people are beginning to look beyond their most basic daily needs. >> the thing that we hear is shelter, shelter is our priority. so many people lost their homes. c.r.s. right now in the first month we've been focusing on emergency shelter, we've been giving tarp, a sturdy tarp along with nails and some tools so that people can erect something very simple for a closed structure for their families. >> reporter: the briones and neighbors who've lived in these informal waterfront shanty town for decades may never get beyond that makeshift housing. the government has declared this low lying land off limits to housing in the future to protect people from future storms. but magnolia briones is not sure where they could go. in this densely populated visayan island, there's little land to be had and as simple laborers they couldn't afford it anyway.
not that staying here is worry free, especially for their 14- year-old, son ronald junior, who has nightmares and sleeps clinging to his parents. >> ( translated ): he's scared of the big waves, worried that a big boat will slam into us. >> reporter: it's hard to imagine but this family is still better off than tens of thousands who remain in evacuation centers, in tents, a handful even on the cement ships, now firmly beached, their hulls a mass of hardened concrete. >> ifill: fred's reporting is a partnership with the under-told stories project at saint mary's university in minnesota. >> woodruff: next, a look at how the white house shapes the presidential image, and a possible truce between the press corps and the obama administration over access to the president. "newshour" congressional correspondent kwame holman has
our story. >> reporter: these are familiar images to many americans, all captured by official white house photographer pete souza. they show private moments: president barack obama speaking with pakistani activist malala yousafzi or lunching with former secretary of state hillary clinton, but many others were taken while news photographers covering the president were excluded, such as during mister obama's air force one flight to south africa with former president george w bush. such examples have caused a simmering feud between the white house and the press, with photographers and reporters arguing their access to the president is more restricted than in the past. mcclatchy newspapers' senior white house correspondent steven thomma: >> we expect a small group of journalists at a minimum to be allowed into the room in the white house or elsewhere when he's meeting with a foreign leader, when he's meeting with his cabinet, when he's meeting
we are granted access less and less since this white house took over in 2009. >> reporter: of course, there are some remarkable moments the press would never be asked to witness. but others are not so extraordinary, and there's the rub, says thomma, president of the white house correspondents association. >> increasingly, as they release their own photos and videos of these events, it underscores to us as a press corp, that they know these are of public interest. >> reporter: the tension spilled into white house press secretary jay carney's regular briefing last week. from your end, that you think it's an-- you think this is now- - is that a fair? >> that we're going to work with the press and with the photographers to, you know, try to address some of their concerns. what i can also assure you is that we will not create a day that has never existed, at least in modern times, when everyone in the white house press corps
is satisfied with the amount of access they get to the president. that would be, i think, impossible to expect. >> reporter: images matter to every white house, according to martha joynt kumar, a political scientist at towson university who studies the presidency a the media. >> pictures really send a message to people. it's something that speaks directly to them. one aspect i think that's involved here in the photographers' issue, is that, the white house photographer is, to be a photographer not only of the president, following the president around, but it is of the presidency itself as an institution. and giving people a sense of what the presidency is. and what the white house is, how the white house operates. >> reporter: administrations have been using the tools at their disposal for years to relay the president's message
and shape how he is viewed by the public. >> staff-- the president's staff tend to be risk averse. and nobody wants to be the person who recommended that the president do the press briefing or take pictures that get turned against him. and have the president say, "who recommended this," so nobody wants to be in that position. if the president is the risk taker, because the white house staff reflects the president, it doesn't complement him. >> reporter: mister obama was the first president to hire an official white house videographer. arun chaudhary followed the president from his 2008 campaign until 2011. >> at the white house in the morning i would probably take a look at the president's schedule. and from a historical perspective think what are the most important things to capture for history. i think the president has a lot of back and forth with the
media, just like all presidents and that the issues are fundamentally the same, i think what's changed is the media landscape, the way people get news, the manners in which they are able to access it and in general, just the economics of how it all works. >> reporter: carney and white house staff met tuesday afternoon with thomma and others from the press corps to seek some resolution. the press organization said it was encouraged by the meeting and that they would continue an ongoing dialogue with white house staff. the cooperative tone may get an early test. the president leaves friday for a family vacation in hawaii, an activity that's given rise to press complaints about access to the president in the past. >> ifill: 'tis the season for political retirements. three senior members of the house announced yesterday they are heading for the exits, giving each party new opportunities ahead of the november midterm elections. we examine the landscape one
year out with "newshour" political editor christina bellantoni. christina, do these benefit one party or the other. >> retirement is always offer any party an opportunity because there is a power of incumbency. so democrats like their chances in virginia where frank wolf has retired there he is a long time republican. one of those growing outer suburbs that are key to democrat's winning in that battleground state. and then you also see in iowa which is a long time swing state, you've got a republican tom latham retiring there for many yearsing never really ran statewide, thought maybe he would a senate candidate, now he is leaving, both paets see potential opportunities there. then of course there is utah, jim mathison, and he is a long time democrat. and republicans say this is a very good seat for them. this is one of seven very republican districts that george w. bush won, john mccain won, mitt romney won so that is a seat democrats aren't going to be able to capture. they need 17 seats to be
able to reclaim control of the house that is a long way away. >> ifill: that was always considered to be a long way away but it doesn't help when people decide to retire. >> not at all am they don't like defending open sees-- seats but republicans are retiring 11 to to 1 versus democrats. when you talk to them they see that as expanding their map. they see opportunities in places like arkansas, north carolina, other places in south florida, some other states like that. >> ifill: well, let's talk about the senate, because in the senate there are also retirements and there's a better chance of gaining or regaining control for republicans, perhaps. >> the senate republicans need six net seats to be able to take control back. three of those seats might look pretty easy. you've got west virginia where jay rockefeller a democrat is retiring, south dakota and montana, though are pretty likely republican pickups. that's only really three seats they need to win to get control back there are incumbents on the ropes. >> ifill: let's start with north carolina, cay hagen.
>> a first term democrat, close to the president, she has taken votes that put her at risk. but it is one of those states that is really changing in its demographics. president obama won it in 2008. tried to win it in 2012 and came close. the democrats are really putting a lot of energy there. if she can hold on it shows the changing demographics of this area. >> ifill: and in arkansas mark pryor reasons this is an interesting state, arkansas used to be a democratic state. it has been trending republican. he's not very popular rit now but he tried to distance himself from the president as much as he can. there is the poer with of incumbency of course, he is running against a freshman republican house member, not necessarily that popular but he is running ated that is tom cotton. >> ifill: now there is also an off chance that georgia might enter in the debate that is an open seat. >> you have chambliss retiring and one of the dem 2k3wr59-- democratic stars of the national party this year, is michelle nunn. they think she request raise a lot of money. the daughter of a former senator, well-known, the woman being at the top of the ticket. at the same tim there is an interesting governor's race happening with jimmy
carter's grandson running. and so maybe that's going to be too big name democrats that could help things. and republicans have a very intense primary in that senate side. multiple candidates fighting it out. and that could end up helping the democrats. another state where changing demographics might be societies this can pick up. >> ifill: i want to step away from all of these seats. because they mean more than just individual races. 2014 could be a real critical election. >> and what are the issues that are driving all of these elections on either side. >> health care remains a big issue actually for both parties. republicans think this is a winning issue. they say they will continue to criticize the president, hope his approval rating continue to go down. both house and senate races they think if they tie democrats to the president in an unpopular health care law that could help them. but the president and democrats think the health care there are a lot of good things about. we'll keep run on that. and the democratic message is really pointing at will cansment they just want to repeal all of the good things in the health care law. they just want to focus on a broken web site and not really the bigger picture.
that will continue to be the battle. the third straight election we're running on the affordable care act. >> ifill: it keeps coming back. but are there any other issues, spending, is it tax, is it the things we usually are used to hearing about. >> there's plenty of that and republicans are saying they are the fiscal stalwarts. this he are also saying people like a check and balance on a democratic administration so maybe they deserve to keep divided government. so democrats are talking about the so-called-- saying that republicans want to get involved in women's health issues, or take those types of things away from them. so you will keep hearing those themes. but it's been effect any a lot of places including in this last governor's contest in virginia. >> ifill: now just to wrap it up, people look at midterm elections and it's usually to the good news for an incumbent president. but this is a lame duck president. does the president right now rock bottom unpopularity where he is, does that affect what happens in these races in the outcome? ness with both parties will say it depends on where you are looking. in the case of tom latham we talked about from iowa, they did a poll in that district, president obama is at 61%
disapproval there. that matters. but in a state where it's maybe more liberal, it will not necessarily matter. the senate races are probably a little closer to it. >> ifill: christina bellantoni, you spent a coupliers here as our political editor and now are leaving does to become editor and chief of roll call, thank so much for everything you've done for us. >> thank you. miss the newshour already. >> woodruff: finally tonight, something completely different. correspondent paul solman takes a look at a technology that allows adventurous users to explore the latest developments in the world of video gaming. it's part of his ongoing coverage "making sense of financial news." >> reporter: it was a 20-year- old named palmer lucky who would finally make science fiction dreams come true. working in his parents garage, he cobbled together a headset out of ski goggles, smartphone
and tablet parts to create a just-like-real-life gaming experience. then, hoping to raise $250,000 to take his invention to market, he turned to the crowdfunding website kickstarter. >> so join the revolution. make a pledge. and help up change gaming forever. >> reporter: within days, he had ten times what he needed, as gamers went gaga over the goggles. >> games are something i'm really passionate about and the problem was there was nothing that gave me the experience that i want, the matrix, where i can plug in and actually be in the game. >> reporter: the oculus rift headset is still just a prototype. to see how far virtual reality will actually go, we visited stanford university's virtual human interaction lab. >> this is the best virtual experience you're going to have in the entire world right now. >> reporter: lab founder jeremy bailenson is a technologist and a psychologist. >> virtual reality is basically two things: tracking your body movements and sending new information to your eyes and ears, based on those movements.
>> reporter: to make that happen, all you need are eight cameras to track the positions of all your body parts, accelerometers to monitor your heads rotation, dozens of speakers for surround sound maybe a floor plate that vibrates with bass frequencies all run by a roomful of computers. >> the job of these machines is to continually change what you see, what you hear and what you feel on your skin as a function of how you've moved. >> reporter: vivid graphics don't trick the brain, says bailenson; movement does. >> it's nice to have good graphics but what's critical is very accurately tracking the position of your head, your hands, your body. and so in this lab we track your hand position to an accuracy of one millimeter. and we do it 200 times a second. it's the accuracy and the temporal frequency that's
important. and for v.r. to work, we've got to show you different stuff as a function of you turning your head. and when you bend down the world needs to change. and when you put your arm up you need to see your arm. >> reporter: and when you're immersed in a simple graphic version of the very room i was standing in. >> so what i want you to do is look down. now, cody can you... >> reporter: whoa! oh my god. oh my god. i'm not going to be able to walk across it. >> you don't have to would you like a room that's less scary? >> reporter: yes. >> reporter: now the point of airing this sequence is not to humiliate me-- though it manages to do a pretty good job-- but to show how absolutely transformative this new technology might be. v.r. is already used professionally for everything from vehicle design to flight simulation, to surgical training, to psychotherapy. and when it does hit the consumer market, it won't be
just for games. can't make it to florence this year, or maybe ever, to see michelangelo's most famous statue? want to duck the crowds? if you can't come to the david, the david can come to you. >> and open your eyes. >> reporter: oh my god, that's unbelievable. how about seeing the david in a completely new way? like being the david? >> step into david. share his body space. >> reporter: holy smokes. in case you're wondering, it's not just your trepid reporter who had such violent reactions. though non-video game geezers do seem especially susceptible. >> oh, lordy! >> reporter: this oculus rift trial user is actually not far from david at the moment, in the countryside of virtual tuscany. >> i can't believe it! it's really beautiful! >> reporter: and think how common online video chats are becoming, and what they will be like in virtual reality.
we saw an early example last year with futurist ray kurzweil. >> it's not that different from what we have today, just much more powerful. >> reporter: and why limit those chats to the living, asks virtual reality pioneer jaron lanier? >> there's also this funding of sort of fake immortality, where you create media effects or sort of fake ghosts of people who've died, so that other people can interact with them as if they're still alive. a generation or two from now this will be part of our experience in the same way that movies, and literature, and video games already are. force for good? force for ill? >> every new capability that people achieve can go either way, and no amount of technical prowess can make people better. you know, that's something that has to come from a different sensibility; a moral sensibility; an ethical sensibility; and that's not a problem we can solve in the lab. >> reporter: let's hope it's a problem we can solve in real life, though, or in whatever might take its place.
>> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: the federal reserve announced it's scaling back stimulus efforts because the economy is getting stronger. wall street rallied sharply higher on the news. the dow industrials gained 292 points. the senate gave final approval to a two-year budget agreement. and a presidential review board called curbing the national security agency's surveillance programs. and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll look at russian president putin's annual news conference. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us here at the "pbs newshour," thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪
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newman's own foundation, giving all profits to charity and pursuing the common good for over 30 years, united health care. and union bank. >> at union bank, our relationship managers work hard to know your business, offering specialized solutions and capital to help you meet your growth objectives. we offer expertise and tailored solutions for small businesses and major corporations. what can we do for you? >> and now, "bbc world news america." reporting from washington, i'm katty kay. america's surveillance practices will be curtailed.
we speak to the former head of the national security agency. and the great train robber dies at the age of 86. we look back at his famous heist and his years on the run. welcome to our viewers on public television here in america and also around the globe. the white house released a report from a presidenti